The things we say even in casual conversation can have profound effects on the people we say them to. St. Ambrose advises us always to keep our conversation within the limits of friendly good taste, so that we never give anyone an occasion of sin.
Speech is divided into two kinds: first, as it is used in friendly conversation, and then in the treatment and discussion of matters of faith and justice. In either case we must take care that there is no irritation. Our language should be mild and quiet, and full of kindness and courtesy and free from insult.
Let there be no obstinate disputes in our familiar conversations, for they only bring up useless subjects, rather than supply anything useful. Let there be discussion without wrath, urbanity without bitterness, warning without sharpness, advice without giving offense. And as in every action of our life we ought to take heed to this, so that no overpowering impulse of our mind may ever shut out reason (let us always keep a place for its guidance), so, too, we should observe that rule in our language, so that neither wrath nor hatred may be aroused, and that we may not show any signs of our greed or sloth.
And let our language especially be of this sort when we are speaking of the Holy Scriptures. For what should we talk about more often than of the best subject of conversation—its exhortation to watchfulness, its care for good instruction? Let us have a reason for beginning, and let our end be within reasonable limits. For a speech that is wearisome only stirs up anger. But surely it is really indecent that when every kind of conversation generally gives additional pleasure, this should give cause of offense!
–St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, 1.22
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
When I’m talking with friends or family, does my conversation cause goodwill, or bitterness?
What subjects should I particularly try to avoid in order to keep from offending the people close to me?
Father, teach me to follow the example of the holy family of your Son, living in love and respect with those around me.
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